Lyrical Ballads

Lyrical Ballads occupies a special place in this exhibition as the starting-point for any consideration of nineteenth-century English poetry and an emblem of unique poetic associations during the period. In the summer of 1797, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were neighbors. They spent many hours together, walked together in the surrounding countryside and discussing poetry. Their collaboration, Lyrical Ballads, published the following year without the names of either poet on the title page, was a conscious departure from the poetic past. The "Advertisement" explained that "the majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure." The authors were aware that "discarding the artifices of poetical diction" would be controversial. Initial reviews and sales were poor. Wordsworth considered Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, in seven parts," the opening poem and singled out for criticism, a chief reason for the commercial failure of the first edition.

When Longman published the second, substantially expanded and rearranged edition in 1800, Wordsworth's name was on the title page and the percentage of works by him had substantially increased. "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere," now entitled "The Ancient Mariner, a Poet's Reverie"-- and less archaic spelling, was moved to the end of the first volume. The collaboratively conceived, lengthy "Preface," in the end written by Wordsworth, refers to a "Friend" as the author of several poems, but Coleridge's name is not mentioned. Wordsworth continued to make changes to Lyrical Ballads in its third (1802) and fourth (1805) editions.

Wordsworth and Coleridge each included poems they had contributed to Lyrical Ballads in later collections of their own works, and the relationship between the two was never again as close as during the time it was written. While critics now see Lyrical Ballads, especially the later editions, as more connected to poetry of its period than a complete departure, the work continues to epitomize a new era in poetry that came to be known as Romanticism.

Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other Poems
[William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)]
London: Printed for J. & A. Arch, 1798

On loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Printed here for the first time are such famous poems as Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancyent Marinere," the first poem in the volume, and Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," and "We Are Seven."


Wachs No. 323

Lyrical Ballads, With Other Poems

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) [and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)]
London: Printed for T. N. Longman and O. Rees; by Biggs and Co. (Bristol), 1800. Two vols.

On loan from Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92

Volume one contains the first appearance of Wordsworth's celebrated preface, a kind of Romantic manifesto, in which he explains in detail the theoretical basis of his new sort of poetry. The poems in the second volume are all new, and are all by Wordsworth. The Rime is still included, but Coleridge, at Wordsworth's suggestion, had modernized much of the spelling and altered the title.


Wachs No. 286